Baltimore Orioles

Signed: Yankees Get Their Miller

Andrew-Miller1[1]

Andrew Miller’s career looked like it was over. The former 6th overall pick (Detroit) in the 2006 draft was derailed by injuries and ineffectivness. Then things suddenly turned around him for as a lefty specialist with the Boston Red Sox in 2012. It paid off for him today. The YES Network’s Jack Curry reported that the New York Yankees and Miller agreed on a four-year, $36MM contract.

The Yankees did not want to go to four years, but compromised once they were able to reduce the yearly average. Miller had reportedly been seeking $10MM per season. The Yankees have struggled to find a consistent left-hander out of the pen for the last decade. Guys like Boone Logan had some good streaks, but would often fail at the worst possible time.

Miller’s bust out season saw him strike out 11.4 batters per nine innings. He appeared in just 37 games in 2013 due to foot surgery, but saw his Ks/nine innings increase to 14.1. Last season, with Boston and Baltimore, he set personal bests with 62.1 IP, 14.9 Ks/nine innings, and a 0.802 WHIP. Good timing for a great contract.

Even with Miller signed, the Yankee cannot leave their bullpen as is. The team had a superb 1-2 punch at the back end of games last year as Dellin Betances emerged as a power right-handed set up man and David Robertson excelled as the closer that replaced Mariano Rivera. Robertson, as of this writing, is an unsigned free agent. Miller’s acquisition will strengthen the bullpen, but only if they resign Robertson or an equivalent. It would be a huge mistake to turn away Robertson if he wants four years after giving Miller four years, even if it’s likely to cost the Yankees an additional $50-$52MM.

Despite Miller’s numbers, Robertson is the better pitcher and it shouldn’t be assumed that Betances can step into the closer’s role.

 

Signed: Markakis Joins a Brave New World

markakis

Over the years Baltimore has lost a number of long-time Orioles to free agency. Guys like Mike Mussina who the fans hoped would spend their whole careers in the orange, black, and white uniforms. Right fielder Nick Markakis can now be added to the list, though he didn’t have much choice.

Markakis, who signed with the Orioles after they took him with the 7th overall pick in the 2003 MLB Amateur draft, has departed Baltimore to join the Atlanta Braves after the two sides agreed on a four-year deal. The money has not been officially announced,  but ESPN.com’s Buster Oleny estimates that the nine-year veteran will earn around a total of $45MM. That would represent a pay cut from the $15MM Markakis earned the last two seasons.

The 31-year old became a free agent after the Orioles turned down their portion of a mutual option that would have cost the club $17MM for the coming season. Instead the team bought Markakis out for a mere $2MM.

Though he holds a career .358 on-base pct. and a .436 slugging pct., Markakis’ never reached the offensive heights that the early part of his career might have indicated. Granted, he played on some awful Orioles squads, but Markakis averaged 20 home runs, 45 doubles, and 100 RBI from 2007 – 2009. He hasn’t reached 20 home runs since then and had the worst OPS numbers of his career (.685, .729) over the last two seasons.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Markakis’ superb defense and rocket-like arm. He won his second Gold Glove Award this season after he captured one in 2011. He did not commit an error in either of those two years as well as in 2013, and has made just 18 errors in his career to date. Markakis is expected to replace right fielder Jason Heyward, who was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Shelby Miller, in the Orioles outfield.

The Orioles have lost two outfielders to free agency, with Nelson Cruz having agreed to a deal with Seattle this past Monday.

Nick Markakis among the Orioles All-Time hitters

Hits – 7th
Games played – 13th
Home Runs – 15th
Doubles – 7th
Runs scored – 11th
RBI – 13th
Walks – 11th
At-Bats 10th

Signed: Cruz Joins Cano in Seattle

NCruz

Had Nelson Cruz not been busted in the Biogenesis scandal in 2013 he likely would have landed a five year deal last year with at least a value of $90MM – $100MM. Instead he signed with the Baltimore Orioles for one year and bashed an AL leading 40 home runs and drove in 108 runs.

It was those numbers that landed Cruz a four-year, $57MM deal with the Seattle Mariners Monday morning. It’s still shy a year and some millions of what he could have made, but after last season’s compromise (Cruz earned $8MM), the new deal looks pretty golden.

The Mariners made a committment last season towards a brighter tomorrow when they held firm to their policy of holding on to ace Felix Hernandez and then signed free agent second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM deal. The team also inked closer Fernando Rodney last offseason and recently signed slugging third baseman Kyle Seager to a seven year extension. They also dealt for centerfielder Austin Jackson at the 2014 trade deadline.

Cruz is likely to spend most of his time at DH, though he should see upwards of 50 games in left and/or right field spelling Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders. The 34-year old, who has been subject to hamstring injuries throughout his career, matched his career high for games played last season with 159. His home run and RBI totals were both career highs (it was the first time he knocked in 100 runs) and helped earn Cruz his third All-Star appearance and a 7th place finish in the AL MVP voting.

His season was made more interesting by the fact that Cruz only put up .783 OPS at his home ball park, the hitter friendly Camden Yards. His bat also went to sleep from June through part of August.

The New York Mets originally signed the Dominican native to a contract in 1998. He was dealt to the Oakland A’s in 2000 and then moved on to Milwaukee in 2004. The deal that kickstarted his career though came in 2006 when he and Carlos Lee were sent to the Texas Rangers for reliever Francisco Cordero and outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.

Cruz had his break out season in 2009 when he slugged 33 home runs. He’s averaged 29 home runs in his last six seasons. He had 27 HR and 76 RBI when he was suspended 50 games for his involvement with Biogenesis, the performance enhancing drug (PED) “store” that mascaraded as a health clinic.

With Cruz’s departure, the Orioles may ramp up their talks with the LA Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp.

Rumor: D-Rob Has 3 Year, $39MM Offer

drob

David Robertson had the opportunity to be the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera, who retired after the 2013 regular season. “D-Rob” took full advantage as the new New York Yankees closer, with 39 saves and better than 13 strikeouts per nine innings. A fine season when your about to embark on free agency as well.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday evening that Robertson has a three-year, $39MM offer in hand. The team that made the offer remains unknown at this time. The Yankees definitely want Robertson back and don’t consider set up man Dellin Betances ready to assume the job. In fact, it would not be surprising if the Yankees signed another closer to a short term deal for when, and if, Betances is ready to assume the 9th inning role.

Heyman and Designated For Assignment agree that the Yankees won’t offer Robertson a guaranteed fourth year, but a three year deal would probably be in the range of $40MM – $50MM. The amount would surpass the $12.5MM average per year of the four year deal Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2012 season.

Earlier D4A reported that the San Diego Padres were talking to the Los Angeles Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp. According to FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal the Baltimore Orioles have also talked turkey with the Dodgers. The Orioles have free agent outfielders in Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis that would “only” cost them money rather than the players they would have to give up to land Kemp.

MLB Preview: The Buck Starts Here

ubaldo1_GAMER720_bfa0136f_kwvpi0z0[1]

Manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles are counting on a big season from Ubaldo Jimenez.

by Drew Sarver

Key Acquisitions: Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Ryan Webb, Delmon Young, David Lough

Key Losses: Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth, Scott Feldman, Wilson Betemit, Chris Dickerson, Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson

 

In 2011, Manager Buck Showalter took over a club that had only finished higher than fourth place in the AL East once since 1997. A year later, he led the team to a 93-win season and their first playoff appearance since ’97, ultimately losing to the Yankees in the fifth game of the divisional series. Last year, the team won eight less games than in 2011, missed the playoffs, and settled into a third place tie with the Yankees.

The offense revolves around Chris Davis, who finished behind Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout in last year’s AL MVP voting. Despite missing the playoffs, there’s a legitimate argument that Davis should have been the MVP. Davis struggled in his years with the Texas Rangers organization (2006-2011), and wasn’t highly regarded when he and Tommy Hunter were dealt to the O’s for Koji Uehara at the 2011 deadline.

The change of scenery had an impact for Davis in the 2012 season. He belted 33 home runs, drove in 85 runs and recorded a .501 slugging percentage. Last season, Davis reached another stratosphere – an AL- leading 53 HR and 138 RBI, and a 1.004 OPS. It earned him his first All-Star appearance and his first Silver Slugger Award.

The Orioles finished tied for fourth in the AL in runs scored last season, but general manager Dan Duquette signed free agents Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young to give Davis protection in the lineup. Cruz has a history of injuries, mainly hamstring, and is coming off a 50-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic. He’s averaged 27 HR and 81 RBI over the last five  seasons, but has topped 130 games played just once in non-suspended seasons.

At 28, Young is not so young any more and is at a crossroads in his career. His image has been damaged by his off-the-field comments and he hasn’t produced on the field. His lone big season came in 2010, when he knocked in 112 runs and topped an .800 OPS for the only time in his career. He’ll likely platoon in right field with David Lough.

The Orioles will be without the services of their phenom third baseman Manny Machado to start the season.  In his first full season in the Majors, Machado earned an All-Star nod and won a Gold Glove award. The 21-year old tore the medial patellofemoral ligament of his left knee in the final week of the 2013 season. He had reconstructive surgery in October with an expected recovery time of 4-6 months. In the meantime, Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop, and Steve Lombardozzi could see time at third base (as well as second base).

LINEUP

C: Matt Wieters
1B: Chris Davis
2B: Flaherty/Schoop/Lombardozzi
SS J.J. Hardy
3B: Manny Machado (Flaherty/Schoop/Lombardozzi)
LF: Delmon Young/David Lough
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
DH: Nelson Cruz

Chris Tillman didn’t look good in his 36 Major League starts over 2009 – 2011, but he impressed in his 15 starts for the Orioles in 2012. That led to a breakout 2013 season. Tillman topped 200 innings, struck out 179 and won 16 games. He needs to cut down on serving up home runs, and control is sometimes still an issue, but Tillman should be able to build off of last season’s success.

He’ll be joined by Ubaldo Jiminez, who the Orioles signed to a four-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $50MM. It’s a big risk, considering that outside of the second half of last year, Jimenez hasn’t been good since 2010. Jimenez did post a career-high 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings last year and cut his wild pitches (8) in half from 2012. The money per year isn’t bad, but the number of years sounds nuts at the moment.

ROTATION

SP: Chris Tillman
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Miguel Gonzalez
SP: Bud Norris
SP: Wei-Yin Chen

Hunter will replace Jim Johnson as closer. He has the tools, but has not had the role of full-time closer before.

BULLPEN

Tommy Hunter
Darren O’Day
Ryan Webb
Evan Meek
Zach Britton
Brian Matusz
Josh Stinson

BENCH

Steven Pearce gives Showalter versatility with the ability to play first base and outfield. The second base/third base triumvirate will have one to two of the three coming off the bench. Steve Clevenger backs up Matt Wieters at catcher. Nolan Reimold continues to struggle in his comeback from a pair of neck surgeries and will start the season on the DL.

OUTLOOK

There are talented players in the Orioles lineup, but neither the pitching nor hitting will provide enough to finish ahead of the big three AL East powerhouses, Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay.

Nelson Cruz: How The Mighty Have Fallen

Nelson Cruz

Once you get the taint of performance enhancing drug (PED) user on your resume it can be very difficult to wipe it off. Nelson Cruz found that out the hard way when he had to settle for a reported one year, $8MM deal with the Baltimore Orioles.

The agreement, reported by ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas, is dependent on a physical and contains incentives worth $750K. The 33-year old has been often injured, primarily hamstring and leg issues over parts of eight seasons with the Texas Rangers, and topped 128 games just once (2012). Over the last five seasons Cruz has averaged 27 home runs, 81 RBI, and an .831 OPS. He was near his average in home runs and RBI after just 109 games last season before he was named in the Biogenesis scandal and was suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games.

After initially considering fighting the penalty, Cruz decided to sit out the 50 games. He played his last regular season game on August 4, but returned for the one game playoff between wild card winners Texas and Tampa Bay. Cruz went 0-4 in the Rays 5-2 victory.

Roberts Handed Second Base

robertsny

Originally written for My Pinstripes

I wouldn’t be surprised if Brian Cashman held a lucky rabbit’s foot, wore a four leaf clover around his neck, and said a novena or Hail Mary or two when Brian Roberts put ink to paper and signed his contract with the New York Yankees.

With Kelly Johnson also in camp, manager Joe Girardi announced that Roberts would be his starting second baseman when the team heads north (actually west to play the Houston Astros) to start the regular season. Roberts isn’t expected to replace the production that the Yankees will miss from Robinson Cano, but they hope Roberts and others can collectively make up some of that ground.

A once quick-as-a-rabbit youngster, Roberts joins a team of older, injured players. Well, most of them were injured last year anyway. For Roberts it’s been a myriad of injuries over the last several years.

Roberts suffered an abdominal strain in 2010 that kept him out  of the lineup from April to July and limited him to 59 games. (He also suffered from a herniated disc in his back during Spring Training in 2010.)

In May of 2011, Roberts hit the back of his head sliding into first base and suffered a serious concussion. He missed the rest of the 2011 season and didn’t return to the Majors until June, 2012.  But he wasn’t active for long.

Roberts hurt his groin in early July and was placed back on the DL. At the end of the month he opted for season ending hip surgery. During the off-season he also had surgery to repair a sports hernia. He played in 17 games, the lowest number of his career and the same number his new double play partner, Derek Jeter, played in his own injury plagued 2013 season.

In April, 2013 Roberts made another trip to the DL after he ruptured a tendon in a portion of hamstring behind his right knee and underwent surgery. It kept him out of an Orioles uniform until June 30. His 77 games played was the most action he saw over a four year stretch of injuries and surgeries, but his production was far below his norm. (.249/.312/.392 slash line)

The Yankees hope to see a glimpse of the former first round pick (50th overall out of U. of South Carolina in 1999). Roberts was a two-time All-Star who combined some pop with speed (90 stolen bases 2007-2008) and was often a Yankees killer. A typical season for Roberts saw 13 home runs, 64 RBI, 36 steals, 45 doubles, and 99 runs scored. 

In attempt to keep him healthy, Girardi may very well put the reins on Roberts when it comes to stolen base attempts and it will be interesting to see where he bats in the lineup with a pair of lead off men – Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner – already in the lineup.

The Yankees and Roberts don’t care where he bats as long as he can stay healthy and productive.

Drew Sarver is the publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.